The Staves: If I Was review – a bolder sound drives subtler words


The voices are still silken, the sibling harmonies still graceful, but everything else about the Staves has changed since their 2012 debut, Dead & Born & Grown. That album had forthright lyrics, but bland, folk-by-numbers backing; this one is softer in its address, more introspective, yet the sound is so much bolder, the music taking thrilling leaps in character and complexity. The Watford sisters’ decision to work with Justin Vernon (AKA Bon Iver) as producer was inspired: his influence glimmers in the spacious dynamics of Let Me Down, the way No Me, No You, No More hangs in the air like dust motes, the dense drums that butt against a needling guitar in Steady. Occasionally, the heightened Americana rings false: the country twang of Teeth White is likely to induce wincing, while the blues note in the guitar of Black & White detracts from the crimson bloodiness of the vocals. But there’s no faulting the slow waves of emotion that surge and crest in Damn It All, or the rasp and rustle of Make It Holy, a song so chaste yet trembling with desire.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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